Thorpdale is a small country town in the Gippsland area of eastern Victoria, Australia, less than 20 km south of Trafalgar. Famous for its potatoes, it is located amongst the rich farmland of the Latrobe Valley. Thorpdale spuds are eaten around the country and also exported overseas. The name “Thorpdale” means “village in a valley”. The soil in the area is particularly rich as the town is located in a former volcanic crater. It is administered by the Shire of Baw Baw. At the 2006 census, Thorpdale and the surrounding area had a population of 447.
The Thorpdale district, known at first as the Narracan district, was settled in the 1870s.
The first settlers arrived from the old Melbourne – Sale Road via McDonalds Track – a former stock route that had been surveyed in 1862 through the hills from Lang Lang to Morwell Bridge, but which shortly became disused and very much overgrown. Land selection began at Narracan (near the eastern end of the track) in 1873. The main selection front progressed steadily along the track, reaching Narracan West in 1876. The Post Office opened on 1 October 1879 as Narracan West and was renamed Thorpdale in 1884 and Thorpdale South in 1888 closing in 1968. A new Thorpdale Post Office opened in 1888 near the railway station.
The present town of Thorpdale (situated about 2 km north of the old town) was founded in 1888 following construction of a branch railway line from Moe. At the height of its time it was a business centre for all the farming activity that surrounded it.
Much of the old town was destroyed during the large Red Tuesday (20 January 1898) bushfire that ravaged Gippsland and the Otway Ranges.
The Town today
Today, the Thorpdale township is becoming smaller and smaller as more farming families opt to live in larger townships such as Trafalgar. The national decline in consumption of potatoes is making even farming difficult in the small town.
The town has an Australian rules football team competing in the Mid Gippsland Football League.
In late 2008, the town was hit by the news that a potato disease (potato cyst nematode) had been found among its crops. The disease is not harmful to humans but can significantly reduce crop yields. Thorpdale farms were quarantined and banned from exporting potatoes interstate and overseas. Interstate trade has since resumed.
The township holds the Thorpdale Potato Festival each year on the Victorian Labour Day holiday in March but as the insurance cost is too great for the small community to bear, it has not been run since 2002. But will be returning in 2015. The festival features potato sack races, Historic machinery, eating contests, market stalls, and much more. The lush farming surrounds give the town a peaceful rural atmosphere and there are several scenic sights nearby, including the Narracan Falls, Trafalgar South Lookout and Henderson’s Gully.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). “Thorpdale (State Suburb)”. 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
- “Trafalgar”. The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 February 2004. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Premier Postal History. “Post Office List”. Archived from the original on 2008-05-10. Retrieved 2008-04-11
- Mallia, Shaun (23 October 2008). “POTATO PLIGHT”. Latrobe Valley Express. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- “Interstate trading to resume for Thorpdale potatoes”. ABC News. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
1. Jim Tilgner, Recalling 100 Years (Thorpdale Centenary Committee, 1976).
2. John Adams FRHSV, So Tall the Trees (Narracan Shire Council, 1978).
3. Walter E. Savige – Savige Russell Powell 1848-1880 (Camberwell, 1981).
4. Kevin Murray – The Murrays Part 1 1840s-1890s (Melbourne, 1996).
5. Walter Savige – Historic Narracan [electronic resource], 2004.
6. Kenneth Cox – Call Back Yesterday (North Balwyn, 1979), pp 50–53.